Despite living under a dollar a day, falling annually victim to floods, the community teaches me that everyone has the ability to give.
Location:Dhungana Tol Village, Nepal
Profession: Research & Education Coordinator for the Dolphin Conservation Centre of Nepal
Twitter Handle: @Lev_Sarah1
What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:
When I was really young, my family owned a furniture store in downtown Macon, Georgia. I loved visiting and being treated like a princess. From what I can recall, I asked everyone for their dimes, so I could ‘donate’ to the Kiwanis Club gumball machine in exchange for Chicklets. I did not know what Kiwanis Club was, and at the end of the day I’d lay on the floor with a colorful mouth and sweet-tooth hangover. Let’s just say, Kiwanis Club of Downtown Macon did very well in their gumball fundraising campaign.
What is your charity of choice?:
For the past year, it’s been the Dolphin Conservation Centre (DCC), established by the local communities of Western Nepal. You might be thinking, “There are dolphins in landlocked Nepal…?!”. Yes. Every Monsoon season freshwater dolphins make their way from India into Nepal’s rivers. In 1990, DCC was founded by Mr. Bhoj Raj Shrestha, also known as ‘Slingshot Grandpa,’ for confiscating thousands of slingshots once used by children to shoot birds and dolphins.
A hunter-turned conservationist, he and his organization have received national prizes and international recognition for their efforts in Ganges river dolphin conservation, empowering and educating over 60,000 locals about the local flora and fauna. Now at the age of 80, Slingshot Grandpa is still actively engaging the local indigenous communities in improving water quality and ecosystem health. At present, DCC is playing a central role in creating a trans-boundary conservation action plan between India and Nepal, as “Nature Knows-No-Borders.” I ran a race and I’m raising funds for the project here.
Who inspires you to give?:
In Western Nepal, I spend a great deal of time in the subsistent fishing and farming village of Dhungana Tol. Despite living under a dollar a day, falling annually victim to floods, this community teaches me that everyone has the ability to give. For over 3 decades, the entre village has played an active role in Ganges river dolphin conservation and education throughout their district at a cost of their valuable time and many instances money that would have been used for their sustenance. It’s about garnering that connection between the giver and the cause, noticing their potential, and empowering them. I have seen and believe this continuum of giving extends to all economic levels and am in-turned empowered and motivated by their lessons on generosity.
What motivates you to give?:
There are a million and one worthy causes out there. What motivates me to give is the proximity of the funds towards the cause. Witnessing that donations are being used directly on the ground is a sign that the fundraising is true to its mission and the organization is getting their hands dirty to see that the job gets done.
How do you give of your time?:
While living in Nepal, my main objective is to empower the already enthused community in citizen science. The data gathered from students and fishers with a wide range of literacy levels will contribute to a trans-boundary conservation action plan between India and Nepal. Knowledge is power, and access to the data on water quality, ecosystem health, and dolphin population will emboldened community conservation efforts.
If you could start your own charity, what would it be?:
There are over 100,000 NGOs in Nepal, and I am witness to so much time and money getting lost in the cracks that divide each and every organization and program. I believe that unification and partnerships to harness the potential of multiple organizations can make a difference, demand accountability, and bring many together with specific missions to obtain a unified objective.
What advice do you have for others to consider giving?:
Consider the Monarch Butterfly. This is a species that has a multi-generational migration from the mountainous deserts of Mexico to the Canadian border and back each year. Giving is about building off of legacies and having the foresight to see where and how the gifts of others can contribute on a larger/ trans-generational scale. And with this larger perspective imagine how much we can enhance today and how far we can go tomorrow.